TAIPEI: Taiwan's president said China could “offer to eliminate” missiles targeting the island in exchange for a US pledge to stop selling weapons to his government, leaked diplomatic cables show.
Ma Ying-jeou suggested the possibility of a deal in a 2009 meeting with Stephen Young, then director of the American Institute in Taiwan, the de facto US embassy, according to the cable published by WikiLeaks.
But such an agreement would be a “bad bargain” for Taiwan considering China's other military capabilities; Ma was quoted as saying in the cable.
It was unclear from the cable what had motivated Ma to hint at such a deal with China.
Ma said that China continued to upgrade its military and add to the more than 1,000 missiles already targeting the island, despite the thaw in ties, according to the cable.
Washington recognises Beijing over Taipei but remains a leading arms supplier to the island -- which China claims as part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
China “appeared to be pushing the line” that continued US arms sales to Taiwan were “out of step” with improving cross-strait ties, but Washington did not share this view, the cable quoted Young as saying.
A spokesman for the Taiwanese president was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.
Beijing reacted furiously in January 2010 when the Obama administration announced a dollar 6.4 billion arms deal with Taiwan.
That package included Patriot missiles, Black Hawk helicopters and equipment for Taiwan's existing F-16 fleet, but no submarines or new fighter jets.
US officials have said that they will decide by October 1 if they will sell new F-16 jets to Taiwan, a longstanding request from the self-ruling island which fears that China's rapidly growing military has gained a major edge.